March Dance: Celebrating contemporary dance as an exploration

The festival celebrating contemporary dance, in all its simplicity in narration and complexities in form, addresses questions on history, artistic reconstruction, and role of improvisation
Meepao from Manipur
Meepao from Manipur

March is here, and so is the festival of contemporary dance. In its fifth edition, the festival invites artists, researchers and dancers from across the country to reflect upon what constitutes the body’s relationship to a place and its people. A collaboration between Basement 21 Collective and the Goethe-Institut Chennai, this edition of the festival aims to bring together a series of performances, workshops and a film screening.

March Dance is a contemporary dance festival, but what we really feel important to stress on is the wrong idea that most people have about contemporary dance — that it is something from the west. On the contrary, it’s something that is actually a critical way of thinking about life. Contemporary dance is not something that is restricted to a form of dance. It’s a lens through which you look at dance, music, writing, filmmaking, photography, painting — it’s a way of looking at these disciplines and giving them a twist, a little bit of a critical framework in which they can look at the practice itself,” says Preethi Athreya, contemporary dancer and one of the founder-curators of March Dance.

This year, the festival starts with two workshops — the first one is the reconstruction workshop based on late choreographer Chandralekha’s work, called Prana; reconstruction being one of the major features of this year’s festival. Then there is an improvisation workshop — Towards Collective Creation — that begins with a graphic score and works towards a performative outcome. Over seven days, participants from multiple disciplines will seek to establish a democratic, cross-disciplinary modality of ‘making’ — one with clear parameters yet without  rigid boxes. The workshop will be led by musician Maarten Visser and visual artist and theatre maker, Pravin Kannanur.


Next up is a solo performance by Deepak Kurki Sivaswamy titled, Nobody Cares. The piece will explore various effects of the chaotic character of social signifiers, with the author using movement as a tool in the exploration of social relations and hegemonies, even though they seem to be beyond reason.

Well-known contemporary dancer Surjit Nongmeikapam from Manipur is coming with an ensemble production titled, Meepao. It is a dance in celebration of all the departed, especially the ones who are deemed inconsequential. Using minimal movements, Meepao invites the audience into a space where dancers and non-dancers can join in this celebration together.

<em>Sound of Jyamiti</em> by dancer duo Pallavi Verma and Tania Saxena
Sound of Jyamiti by dancer duo Pallavi Verma and Tania Saxena

There will also be performances by new creators — Rituals of Fall — a solo presentation by Deepanwita Roy; and Sound of Jyamiti by dancer duo Pallavi Verma and Tania Saxena. While the former draws inspiration from nature and the law of conservation of energy, the latter is an imagination based on kathak vocabulary: intersecting sound, rhythmic patterns and geometry on the body.

Not to be missed at the festival, One Flat Thing Reproduced — a dance film by William Forsythe and Thierry de Mey — is a play for 14 dancers and 20 tables on the music of Thom Willems choreographed by William Forsythe. The World Premiere of this dance film took place in Frankfurt in 2000 and it was presented at the Palais de Chaillot last July. With a great theatrical intensity, the film oscillates between disorder and symmetry.

<em>One Flat Thing Reproduced</em> 
One Flat Thing Reproduced 

“We really believe Chennai is ready for a lot of radical thinking. It has always been curious and open. And we don’t want people to think that only the classical (dance forms) exist here, but the fact that there is a very critical, incisive radical side to Chennai. There is Cholamandal Artists’ Village, experimental theatre groups, and then there was Chandralekha, doing her contemporary dance from the earliest of times. So, we do have a strong history and we want people today to benefit from it. March Dance is a small festival, but it’s a very deeply critically curated festival. My co-curators, Padmini Chettur, Anoushka Kurien, and Madhusree Basu — we are all dancers, with our own careers, and for once we feel like we should work aside and welcome other dancers and other artistes to come and perform for Chennai. So this is the hat we like to wear once in the year. The whole outlook behind the festival was the idea of the process of a product, because everybody’s looking for a show,” says Preethi.

Nobody Cares: 17 March, 7 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Meepao: 18 March, 7 pm & 19 March, 4 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
One Flat Thing Reproduced:19 March, 6 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Prana (Reconstruction): 24 March, 7 pm. SPACES, Besant Nagar & 25 March, 6 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Towards Collective Creation: 26 March, 6 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Rituals of Fall & Sound of Jyamiti: 26 March, 6 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Workshops: Prana: 13, 18 & 20-24 March, 9 am to 1 pm. SPACES, Besant Nagar
Towards collective Creation: 15, 16, 20-25 March, 3 pm to 7 pm. Goethe-Institut Auditorium

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